Genus: Magnolia

Magnolia grandiflora L.

Common name: Southern Magnolia (Jones & Coile, 1988)

Other Common names (Small, 1933): Evergreen Magnolia, Magnolia, Loblolly Magnolia

Ruth Ann Pannell, Biology Major

Franklin College of Arts and Sciences
University of Georgia, Athens

Taxonomic Arrangement of Magnolia grandiflora (Milne and Milne, 1975) (Hardin, 1992):

Class: Magnoliopsida
SubClass: Magnolidae
Family: Magnoliaceae
Genus: Magnolia

Description of Magnolia grandiflora

Magnolia grandiflora is a large evergreen tree which will grow 30 meters tall and 1.8 meters in trunk diameter (Duncan and Duncan, 1988) .


"Alternate, simple leaves, each four to eight inches (10-20 cm) long, oval-oblong tapering at both ends. Stiff, leathery, shiny-green above and rusty-tomentose beneath" (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) .

Leaves of Magnolia grandiflora
Leaves: Photograph taken by Ruthie Pannell


Covered with rust colored hairs when young, but become smooth and stay rusty with age (Duncan and Duncan, 1988) .


Each 17.5 to 20 cm across with 6 to 12 petals which are creamy white. Each flower is on a stout hairy stalk. They are very fragrant and appear in late spring and early summer (Brown and Kirkman, 1990) .

Flower of Magnolia grandiflora
Flower: Photograph taken by Ruthie Pannell


"Cylindrical cone 3 to 4 inches (7.5-10 cm) long, purplish, turning rusty-brown with bright red, shiny seeds hanging from filamentous threads when mature in September and October" (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) .


Gray to brown coloring, smooth when young but becomes lightly furrowed into close, flat plates or scales. (Brown and Kirman, 1990) . Bark is fragrant and bitter (Gray, 1864) .

Bark of Magnolia grandiflora
Bark: Photograph taken by Ruthie Pannell


"Dense, upright, pyrimidal form in sunlight for first 15 to 20 years becoming more irregular with advanced age. Loose open density in shade" (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) .


Magnolia grandiflora was described by Linneus (Radford, 1968) . The genus Magnolia was named by Linnaeus in honor of Pierre Magnol, who was the physician of King Louis XIV of France and was the director of a botanical garden at Montpellier (Grimm, 1967) . Magnol was also a professor of Botany at Montpellier (Gray, 1864) .

Scientific Reference with Identification Key:

Radford, A.E., H.E. ahles and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Bascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC. (ISBN 0-8078-1087-8).

Where to find this Species:

Magnolia grandiflora is relatively common and is native in North America. It occurs from North Carolina to Florida to Texas (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) . Although its native range is along the Coastal Plain, it can be seen as an ornamental tree throughout much of the Southeast, inland as far as the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. Some have been grown as far north as Washington, D.C. (Grimm, 1864) .

Species Distribution Chart

Magnolia grandiflora L.

North America:
Continental United States; Canada
Yes Duncan and Duncan, 1988
Eastern North America:
United States east of Mississippi;
Ontario and eastern Canada
YesDuncan and Duncan, 1988
Southeastern United States:
YesDuncan and Duncan, 1988
Southern Appalachian States:
CommonConquist and Gleason, 1991
Coastal PlainWidespreadSmall, 1933
PiedmontOccasionalBrown and Kirman, 1990
Blue Ridge MountainsOccasional Ruthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
OccasionalBrown and Kirman, 1990
Ridge and ValleyOccasionalRuthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
Cumberland PlateauNoBrown and Kirman, 1990
Central ArchNoBrown & Kirman, 1990
GeorgiaCommonDuncan and Duncan, 1988
Clarke County, GeorgiaCommonUGA Herbarium Specimens
Sams Farm*Probably notRuthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
Old Field
*Probably notRuthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
*Probably notRuthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
*Probably not Ruthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.
1-Hectare Plot
No Ruthie Pannell, Pers. Ob.

*Magnolia grandiflora is "probably not" at Sam's Farm because it is planted in Clarke County as an ornamental tree. I have not seen this species at Sam's Farm

Other Information about Magnolia grandiflora:

Magnolia grandiflora is most often found in full sunlight to partial shade. It thrives in "loose, moist, fertil, acid soil" and can be grown in soils with a high salt content (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) . Because of its shallow competitive root system, Magnolia grandiflora is very sensitive to its depth of planting and specimens will appear stunted in heavy, compact, poorly drained soil (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) . Magnolia grandiflora occurs to about 165 meters in elevation although some have been grown to 250 meters in elevation (Duncan and Duncan, 1988) .

Magnolia grandiflora is evergreen so it drops foilage throughout the year, leaving piles of leathery leaf littler underneath its branches, stunting the growth of other plants and trees (see picture). This leaf litter deters some from using this tree in landscaping (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) .

Branches of Magnolia grandiflora
Photograph taken by Ruthie Pannell
Flowers bloom from April to June, but in general the trees do not begin blooming until their seventh year, once their growth rate has decreased (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) . Fruits mature in October to November and produce scarlett seeds. Magnolia grandiflora is native to the coastal plain of the Southeastern United States but is frequently planted beyond its natural range. Because of ornamental planting it has become naturalized in the Piedmont.

A disease is killing many of the older, mature specimens of Magnolia grandiflora. A small beetle, the bostrichid, kills young terminal shoots and trees with infestation of this beetle have considerable dieback in the canopy (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) .

According to geologists, magnolia trees have been on earth for 80 to 100 million years. The ancestors of the magnolias were growing in the time of the dinosaurs. The magnolia is a very primitive type of flower because all the floral parts are spirally arranged. "In the center of the magnolia blossom, numberous pistils spiral about a cone shaped receptacle, and below them a great many stamens are similarly arranged." The pistils mature into a tight cluster of fruits and each individual fruit splits along one side. This releases 1 to 2 fleshy, scarlett-coated seeds which dangle on slender threads." This morphology is what leads geologists and botanists to the conclusion that magnolias are an ancient tree (Grimm, 1967) .

Famous Magnolias:

A champion Magnolia grandiflora grows in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It has reached a height of 99 feet, a branch spread of 71 feet, and has a trunk which measures 18 feet in circumference!
The next famous magnolia, the Old Waddel magnolia, occurs in Hertford Co., North Carolina. It's trunk is 5 feet in diameter and has a branch spread of 82 feet (Grimm, 1967) .
Another magnificient specimen of magnolia grows near the south portico of the White House. This tree was planted by Andrew Jackson in memory of his wife, Rachael Jackson (Grimm, 1967) .
The magnolia flower is the state flower of Louisiana and the Magnolia grandiflora is the state tree of Mississippi-"the Magnolia State" (Grimm, 1967) .


Magnolia grandiflora is widely planted as an ornamental tree because of its showy, fragrant, ivory flowers and large evergreen leaves (Brown and Kirman, 1990) . It has become a gracious symbol of the Deep South of the United States because it has been planted for a shade and ornament tree so extensively in yards, along streets, etc. (Milne and Milne, 1975) . The seeds of Magnolia grandiflora are consumed by many species of birds and small mammals (Brown and Kirman, 1990) . The leathery green leaves and beautiful flowers are used in decorating and floral arrangements. Although beautiful, the Magnolia grandiflora is a high maintenance tree because it drops foilage throughout the year (Odenwald and Turner, 1996) . The wood is limited in its uses but may be made into furniture, paneling, veneer, creates, and cabinets (Brown and Kirman, 1990) .

How to Encounter Magnolia grandiflora

In Athens, Magnolia grandiflorais planted throughout the city and throughout the UGA Campus. On north campus, many are planted along the iron fence which runs along Broad St. and near the Arch on Broad St. Two large specimens occur at 250 S. Milledge Avenue in Athens. These two specimens surround an antebellum home which has been turned into Phi Mu sorority house. The two Magnolia grandiflorasare on either side of the home.

How to distinguish Magnolia grandiflorafrom other Taxa:

The only other evergreen magnolia is Magnolia virginiana. Magnolia grandiflora is distinguished from Magnolia virginiana by its thicker, larger leaves which are green on the topside and rusty brown underneath (Brown and Kirman, 1990) .
Branches & Leaves of Magnolia grandiflora
Photograph taken by Ruthie Pannell

Useful Links for furthur study of Magnolia grandiflora


  1. Brown, C. and K. Kirman. 1990 Trees of Georgia and Adjacent States. Timber Press, INC. Portland, OR.
  2. Cronquist, A. and H. Gleason. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of the Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. 2nd Ed. New york Botanical Garden, New York.
  3. Duncan, W.H. and W.B. Duncan. 1988. Trees of the Southeastern United States. The University of Georgia Press. Athens, GA.(ISBN 0-8203-0954-0). 322 pages.
  4. Gray, A. 1864. Lessons in Botany. Ivison, Phinney, Blakeman & Co. New York.
  5. Grimm, William C. 1967. Familiar Trees of America. Harper and Row Publishers. New York.
  6. Hardin, J.W. 1992. Foliar Morphology of the Common Trees of North Carolina and Adjacent Sates. Dept. of Botany, North Carolina University. Raleigh, NC.
  7. Jones, S.B. and Coile. 1988. The Georgia Plant List. Dept. of Botany, University of Georgia. Athens. GA.
  8. Milne, L. and M. Milne. 1975. Living Plants fo the World. Chanticleer Press. New York.
  9. Odenwald, N. and J. Turner. 1996. Identification Selection and Use of Southern Plants for Landscape Design. 3rd Ed. Claitor's Publishing Division. Baton Rouge, LA.
  10. Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles and C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina. Press. Chapel Hill, NC.(ISBN 0-8078-1087-8.)
  11. Small, John K. 1933. Manual of the Southeastern Flora. Published by the Author. New York.

    Special thanks to Bryan, Beth, and Ben for all of their help and patience!

Beth, I cannot find who did the species page for my genus to link them to my page...if you know who it is I will link it ASAP Special thanks to Bryan, Beth, and Ben for all of their help and patience!